Why Sunderland have signed Kazenga LuaLua and where he will play

The biggest box Kazenga LuaLua ticks is pace.

Friday, 26th January 2018, 8:37 am
Updated Friday, 26th January 2018, 8:40 am
LuaLua joined on a short-term deal late last night

A plethora of managers at SUnderland have struggled with a squad badly lacking speed in the final third and it has for the most part been the same with Chris Coleman.

It is no surprise that he had to rip up his tactical plans for the team when he learned of a serious injury to Duncan Watmore on the day he took the job. John O'Shea, too, spoke of Watmore's influence when he said you 'cannot underestimate how big a player he was going to be for us'.

Not just for his personality and enthusiasm but most importantly for his ball-carrying abilities, getting the team up the pitch quickly, relieving pressure and raising the prospect of quick counter-attacking goals.

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Over a wretched Christmas period Sunderland had no presence and no threat up front. Coleman went with a 3-4-3 formation but found Aiden McGeady and Callum McManaman badly struggling for form. The striker was badly isolated and the team simply couldn't create chances.

The Hull City win saw Coleman go with two strikers through the middle and the energetic George Honeyman just behind. The team was transformed and created throughout. What was noticeable was how the addition of Asoro in a central area brought Sunderland that ball-carrying speed and the ability to get up the pitch.

It looked far more like a Chris Coleman side and it is to this end that LuaLua has been brought in.

Sunderland's strength in depth up front is lacking and they are clearly vulnerable to an injury derailing their plans. LuaLua is expected to play through the middle, particularly when the Black Cats go with the two up top, and offer that pace to get the team into advanced attacking areas.

Clearly, should the management team decide to tinker with their system then LuaLua is a ready-made option out wide.

Colleagues in Brighton speak of a dazzling talent on his day, diligent in his defensive duty and a threat in the final third.

Of course, it is a while since he has been central to Brighton's plans, last really lighting the AMEX up with a consistent run of form at the beginning of the 2015/16 season.

LuaLua went on loan to QPR at the start of this season but according to boss Ian Holloway, was affected badly by a family bereavement.

He will arrive on Sunderland short of match fitness and any reaction from fans that suggests that is not what the team needs is understandable. A raft of summer signings also arrived having not played consistently for a while and they have found it hard to find form.

It will ask a lot of him to suddenly turn it on and change matches.

Sunderland will hope that what they find with him is a player desperate to relaunch his career and make an impact. The short-term contract clearly offers a strong incentive and for Sunderland it makes for a low risk, low cost addition.

It is worth remembering Coleman's comments a few weeks ago, when he pointed out that the financial situation at least meant that the club could not make any more long-term transfer mistakes.

It was tongue in cheek but on a basic level is true.

He is for now simply after players who can help him stay up this season and by bringing pace and the ability to carry the ball through the middle, another foil for his young strikers, he feels LuaLua can do just that.

It remains to be seen how much he features but clearly he is unlikely to be a regular first team starter. Sunderland have had plenty of short-term January additions over the years who have featured only a handful of times before moving on in the summer.

Coleman needs at leas two more signings in the closing stages of the window, particularly up front. He will hope that by the time the market closes LuaLua is one of a number of additions that give him a little more variety in the squad.

Quite obviously he will not be enough on his own but Sunderland hope he will prove a sensible addition in the months to come.